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“Swedish synth-pop crew Little Dragon recently released their new LP, Ritual Union. Now, Odd Future member Syd the Kyd has remixed a song from that record, “Seconds”, giving the tune a slow, trip-hoppy feel.” Courtesy of Pitchfork Media.
Sweden’s Little Dragon are a band blessed with a distinct and immediately alluring style. Their rhythms are dry and metronomic; their synthesizers either provide a distant ambiance or seem to glow like neon lights that flicker in time with the beat. Frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s phrasing touches on conventions of modern– particularly British– iterations of R&B, but errs on the side of aloof understatement. They are essentially an R&B band, but the major elements of their style are skewed enough that while the music seems vaguely familiar, it doesn’t sound quite like anyone else.
A lot of listeners had their first exposure to Nagano and Little Dragon last year when the group guest starred on two tracks from the Gorillaz’s excellent album Plastic Beach. Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn was very clever in his deployment of the band on those cuts, making the shift into a sequence in “Empire Ants” highlighting Nagano’s smoky, serene voice and Håkan Wirenstrand’s stunning keyboard textures seem like a sudden cut from muddy, dimly lit footage to vibrant, super-saturated color. If one of Albarn’s goals in collaborating with the band was to showcase their best qualities, he did an amazing job of it.
Ritual Union, the band’s third album, does not stray from the sexy, futuristic sound of their previous record, Machine Dreams, or their team-up with Albarn. If anything, they’ve doubled down on their aesthetic by leaning harder than ever on moody synths, nearly subliminal bass lines and impossibly crisp snare hits. A few of the songs, like the sleek title track and the brisk, funky “Nightlight”, rank among the group’s finest work. All through the record, Little Dragon are extremely effective in delivering the most attractive elements of their style, resulting in a set of songs that come across like the ideal soundtrack to a night on the town in some exotic sci-fi city.
The problem with Ritual Union is that even though every song on the album is built on the foundation of some very good musical ideas and at least one engaging hook, the material nevertheless seems rather under-written. “When I Go Out”, “Please Turn”, and “Crystalfilm” all get stuck in groovy ruts, while cuts like “Little Man”, “Summertearz”, and “Brush the Heat” seem like they are one extra hook, middle eight, rhythmic shift, or chord change away from becoming truly outstanding pieces of music. This doesn’t diminish the charm of the music, per se, but it can be very frustrating to hear songs right on the precipice of greatness. Little Dragon have clearly mastered their style on this album; hopefully next time around they will deliver more songs worthy of their sound. – Matthew Perpetua, July 26, 2011
When Yukimi speaks of this summer’s Ritual Union as having possibly a more tribal feel, then surely “Summertearz” is the one song we’ve heard so far that proves to be a storming example of the lead singer’s intention? Can’t wait to hear the studio version and all the intricacies it’ll bring.
Written by Yukimi Nagano
The coldest wind hit me so hard
I raise my fist
I slip apart
Nothing compares nothing at all
Just like my tears
I let them fall
It’s in my blood
This dizzy vein
It never cared of all my pain
So lead me on into your web
It’s just a ride that’s in my head
Kind of driven and kind of triggered on
I watch the woods trying to find those inner gods
Hold it back just to try to hold it in
Just like the devil that stayed ready to win
No competition still I’m acting on a race
Watching angels dancing in the slow of ways
Got to let it go
But I can’t
Got to let it go
Hopefully this goes down well. This is just a teaser for the summer ahead or July 12th to be exact. What we’ve got here are four tracks, three of which are live, that will feature on Ritual Union when it surfaces in a couple of months. “NightLight” is the leaked and unmastered version. Remember, you can actually purchase this on iTunes (US) and I’d persuade you to do so as the difference is audible and certain and supporting the artist by throwing out a few pence is surely something that won’t significantly harm your pocket, hopefully. The others, including an excellent recording of “Little Man”, are live performances – which as Little Dragon fans well know can be superior to the record itself.
1. “NightLight” (Unmastered)
2. “Ritual Union” (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
3. “Summertearz” (Pitchfork)
4. “Little Man” (IFC at SXSW)
Note: Removed as per request.
Little Dragon have released their first single off the upcoming Ritual Union LP and it is “NightLight”. The song is available to download from the US iTunes website here, although for whatever reason it seems to be only available in that territory (maybe due to their strong Californian following). Yukimi posted on twittledragon that the single had reached number twenty-two on the single download chart after just two days. You’ve probably heard the streaming quality version of the release (which came about with the initial press release outlining the album due date, appearing on Pitchfork), but at least now we’ve got the chance to get ourselves a truly high quality version of this wonderful track.
The artwork was created by Jan Scharlau and you can check out extended versions of the piece at his website. Ritual Union really is shaping up to be an incredible record. We’ve now heard “Little Man”, “SummerTearz”, “Ritual Union”, and “NightLight” and each is better than the other. Summer can’t come quick enough. If you’re American, go purchase “Nightlight”. It’s just $.99! “Flyin’ like a heroine…”
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